The West Virginia University College of Law’s Clinical Law Program was recently awarded a State Opioid Response (SOR) grant of over $117,000 to provide reentry-related legal services to West Virginians recovering from substance use disorder. Primarily focusing on establishing economic stability, the services include bankruptcy, benefits eligibility, driver’s license reinstatement, and expungements. The SOR grant program is funded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and supported by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Behavioral Health.
“It’s wonderful to see this investment in our state,” remarked Clinic Director and Associate Professor Nicole McConlogue. “Access to legal resources will help people get their lives back on track and support them in achieving a sustained recovery.”
The Clinical Law Program is partnering with the Clarksburg Mission, a residential recovery facility, as part of its activities under the grant. As a result, the Mission has already hosted two “lawyer of the day” events, during which law students provide 30-minute legal consultations to residents at the Clarksburg Mission. The students, acting under attorney supervision, answer questions about legal processes, review documents, help participants complete legal forms, make referrals, and identify next steps. Both events have been met with significant demand and were well-received by participants. “Everyone was so glad to have some help,” Professor McConlogue commented. “But we’re just showing up and listening. They’re the ones doing the hard part.”
Shawna Pastuch White, a 2008 graduate of the College of Law, will meet client needs under this new grant in a staff attorney role. Ms. White is an experienced public interest lawyer, having served as a public defender and domestic violence advocate. Most recently, she spent six years as a staff attorney with Disability Rights West Virginia. As staff attorney, Ms. White will organize and facilitate more of these events both at the Mission and statewide, while maintaining a caseload and advising law students who represent reentry clients in the Clinical Law Program.